Maria Arena Bell
||This article possibly contains original research. (March 2013)|
Maria Arena Bell (born March 10, 1963) is an American novelist, television and freelance writer, as well as a Los Angeles based philanthropist and patron of the arts. She is the former head writer and executive producer of the CBS Daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless.
Bell is married to Bill Bell Jr., the eldest son of Y&R creators William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell. They have two children, Liam and Sabrina. Her brother-in-law and sister-in-law are Bradley Bell and Lauralee Bell.
Bell serves on several nonprofit boards in the arts including P.S. Arts where she serves as president-at-Large  and has helped raise funds to provide arts to 11,000 low-income, Los Angeles public school children. Bell chairs the National Arts Awards for Americans For The Arts (a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington DC), and through the Bell Family Foundation supports the NAA Bell Family Foundation Young Artist Award. At The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Anageles (MOCA) Bell has served as the Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees since 2009, and has helped raise more than eleven million dollars to support MOCA and its programs. In addition, she sits on the boards of Center Dance Arts, Dicapo Opera Theater, and the American Friends of The Musee Des Arts Decoratifs, Paris. Bell is also a committed and active board member of The Melanoma Research Alliance and Marlborough School, Los Angeles.
In the fall of 2012, Bell was nominated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and subsequently sworn in on December 11, 2012 as Commissioner to the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Committee.
Bell began her writing career for The Bold and the Beautiful in 1988 under legendary writer William J. Bell. There she helped create the character Sally Spectra who was loosely based on her step-father who worked in the Los Angeles garment industry.
Bell later developed primetime shows for NBC and CBS.
Before returning to daytime, Bell was an essayist for publications such as "T" the New York Times Style Magazine, "C" Magazine, Aspen Magazine, and Aspen Peak Magazine.
Bell returned to The Young and the Restless in November 2007 and was named Head Writer in March 2008, and co-executive producer in September 2009. She was then elevated to Executive Producer of the series in December 2010.
The Young and the Restless
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Bell was credited, along with former co-executive producer Paul Rauch, for rejuvenating The Young and the Restless after former head writer and executive producer Lynn Marie Latham was panned by critics for her detour from traditional storytelling and writing characters to suit her storylines. Bell had many successful storylines, including the return of Marge, Katherine Chancellor's look-a-like, which resulted in the reveal that Katherine Chancellor was not, in fact, Jill Foster Abbott's mother.
Yet soon after, critics became disheartened by Bell's departure from character-driven stories in favor of plot-driven ones, like when Lauren Baldwin (Tracey E. Bregman) was kidnapped out of the blue by the never before seen or mentioned Sarah Smythe (also Bregman), sister of Lauren's long time nemesis Sheila Carter (Kimberlin Brown). To make matters worse, Sarah had undergone plastic surgery so as to have the same exact face as Lauren, which was a recycled plot twist from the Lynn Marie Latham era when Sheila had undergone plastic surgery to look exactly like Phyllis Newman (Michelle Stafford). This story along with others garnered her comparisons to the late James E. Reilly (Passions creator/head writer and former head writer of Days of our Lives) who was known for writing outlandish plots. Bell was criticized for writing numerous bland murder mysteries and killing off popular, long time characters, like Brad Carlton (Don Diamont), Colleen Carlton (Tammin Sursok) and Diane Jenkins (Maura West).
Another source of contention has been Bell's casting choices. Critics and fans were dissatisfied with the recasting of one of "Y&R's" most popular characters and a daytime sex symbol Malcolm Winters (formerly played by Shemar Moore) with former Family Matters actor Darius McCrary, as well as Eden Riegel's turn as Heather Stevens and Maura West as Diane Jenkins.
She has been further criticized for casting big name stars from other soaps, like Eden Riegel (Bianca Montgomery from All My Children), Genie Francis (Laura Spencer from General Hospital), Stephen Nichols (Patch Johnson from Days of our Lives), Maura West (Carly Snyder from As The World Turns), Tristan Rogers (Robert Scorpio from General Hospital), Debbi Morgan (Angie Hubbard from All My Children), Darnell Williams (Jesse Hubbard from All My Children), and most recently, Jennifer Landon (Gwen Norbeck Munson from As the World Turns), with an inability to produce material that is on-par with their talents.
On July 25, 2012, a source reported to Daytime Confidential that Bell's co-head Scott Hamner decided to quit Y&R, and this was later confirmed by Soap Opera Digest saying that he would take a leave of absence. "She [Maria Arena Bell] really didn't want me to leave, so I agreed to take a few months off," Hamner said. After the news broke, rumors began to circulate that Jill Farren Phelps was close to being named Y&R's new executive producer.
Two days later, Sony Pictures Television reported via a press release that Phelps has been named executive producer and Josh Griffith, who was previously fired by Sony under Bell's tenure. Sony thanked Bell for her work and wished her "the best of luck and continued success". Only hours later, Bell posted a statement on her Facebook page about being ousted, sharing that she was "mystified" over being let go by Sony. "My ratings are strong... each week stronger than last year. The show is in a great place creatively. We are number one by the greatest margin in the show's history and have been consistently while I've been there. Under no one else's tenure as head writer exec producer have we won every demographic for so long. I am just shy of five years at the helm. It has been an amazing ride. So why am I leaving? There have been a lot of tears shed in the last few days... by me and by my loyal staff and by our iconic actors. I was not given a reason and in fact I have heard nothing from Sony or CBS. They sent me a message through my husband Bill, who had the terrible job of conveying that they'd gone around him and were letting me go," Bell wrote. Her statement caused angry words from fans, saying that Bell was in denial. An official reason was not given for Bell's departure, though many insiders have speculated that her departure was prompted by Sony's desire to have more "creative control" over the number one daytime soap opera and the controversial pairing of Sharon and Victor Newman (Sharon Case and Eric Braeden). Phelps and Griffith's first official episode aired on October 12, 2012, however, Bell was still credited onscreen as executive producer until October 22.
The Young and the Restless writing team won the WGA Award for Best Daytime Serial in February 2010 and again in 2013 for work airing under Bell's tenure. In 2011, Bell, along with her writing team, won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team. In December 2012 Bell was honored with the Women's Image Network Humanitarian Award for her contributions to arts and arts education.
The Bold and the Beautiful (credited as Maria Arena)
- Script Writer: 1989–1992
- Fashion Consultant: 1989
- Script Writer: 1990-92
- Co-Head Writer: December 26, 2007 - April 21, 2008 (with Josh Griffith) (chose financial core status during the WGA strike)
- Head Writer: April 22, 2008 – October 22, 2012 (with Hogan Sheffer: 7/15/08-10/22/12) (with Scott Hamner: 8/11/08-10/22/12) (with Josh Griffith: 10/11/12-10/22/12)
- Co-Executive Producer (with Paul Rauch: October 3, 2008–May 10, 2011)
- Executive Producer May 11, 2011 – October 22, 2012
The Young and the Restless Main Crew
|Maria Arena Bell, Hogan Sheffer, Scott Hamner; Marla Kanelos, Paula Cwikly, Beth Milstein, Jay Gibson, Amanda L. Beall, Janice Ferri Esser, Tom Casiello, Lisa Connor, Anne Schoettle, Susan Dansby,||Maria Arena Bell (Executive Producer), John Fisher, Anthony Morina, Josh O'Connell, Matthew J. Olson, Sally McDonald, Jay Gibson||Mike Denney, Conal O'Brien, Habib Azar, Sally McDonald|
Head Writing Tenure
Lynn Marie Latham
|Head Writer of The Young and the Restless
(with Josh Griffith: 12/26/07-4/21/08; 10/11/12-10/22/12)
(with H. Sheffer: 7/15/08-10/22/12)
(with S. Hamner: 4/15/08-5/9/08; 8/11/08-10/22/12)
December 26, 2007 – October 22, 2012
Executive Producing Tenure
|Executive Producer of The Young and the Restless
(with Paul Rauch: 10/3/08-5/10/11)
October 3, 2008 – October 22, 2012
Jill Farren Phelps
- Fairman, Michael (December 22, 2009). "The Darius McCrary Interview- The Young and the Restless". Michael Fairman On Air - On Soaps.
- "EXCLUSIVE! Y&R Scribe Stepping Down". Soap Opera Digest. July 25, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- Giddens, Jamey (July 27, 2012). "CONFIRMED: Jill Farren Phelps Named Executive Producer of The Young and the Restless; Josh Griffith in as Head Writer!". Daytime Confidential. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- "Huge Shakeup at Y&R!". Soap Opera Digest. August 20, 2012. pp. 4–5.
- "Bell On Exit: Why Am I Leaving?". Soaps in Depth. July 27, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- Giddens, Jamey (July 27, 2012). "Maria Arena Bell Really Doesn't Have a Clue Why Sony TV Gave Her The Boot at Young and Restless". Daytime Confidential. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- Logan, Michael (2012-08-27). "Exclusive: New Boss Jill Farren Phelps Reveals What's in Store For The Young and the Restless". TV Guide. TVGuide.com. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
- "The Young and the Restless Wins WGA Award For Daytime Drama".
- Fairman, Michael (February 21, 2010). "Y&R wins WGA award for Best Daytime Serial!". Michael Fairman On Air - On Soaps.
- "Women's Image Network".